The Law of the Lawless: The Pirate Code

Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. These high-minded ideals may not be the first three words that come to mind when you think about pirates. However, a new book, “The Invisible Hook” by economist Peter T. Leeson, explains that a desire to maximize profits led pirates to develop an organized and efficient form of self-governance embodying these ideals. Some aspects of these pirate codes, as reported by The New Yorker, may surprise you:

  • Arrangements for sharing booty that included: a small pay differential between captain and crew; special allocations for professional such as doctors and carpenters; incentive payments; and compensation for injuries.
  • Prohibitions against gambling and on-board liaisons.
  • Restrictions on late-night drinking.
  • A system for electing captains.
  • Requirement that weapons be kept clean.
  • Provision of “good quarter” to victims upon request.

Apparently, The New Yorker was able to publish the Sept. 7 article just in time for Talk Like A Pirate Day, September 19. Source: The New Yorker.

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